Voorheesville Quiet Zone
Improved Safety and a Better Quality of Life
   Home
 

Update - August 8, 2014

The Notice of Intent to Establish a Quiet Zone (NOI), which must be issued before CSX will begin the engineering design, was sent in the past week to the Albany County Commissioner of Public Works (DPW). The County will be responsible for sending the NOI to the parties that are required to receive it under federal regulations. The NOI is currently under review by the DPW.

Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy cancelled his July 22nd visit to Voorheesville. The County Executive’s website does not show a date for rescheduling his visit. However, he will be at the New Scotland Town Hall on Wednesday evening August 13th. The time is not indicated on the website.

Steve Schreiber
Committee for a Quiet Zone in Voorheesville

 
 
NEW!! July 2014

As you may know, the County provided $27,500 to the Village of Voorheesville to obtain an engineering design for four-quadrant gates at both crossings in the village. The installation of the gates is necessary for the quiet zone project to go forward. Preliminary estimates provided by CSX last year were that the total cost would be less than $200,000. The engineering design, which will be done by CSX, will develop specifications and final cost figures.  The Committee for a Quiet Zone in Voorheesville would like to thank County Legislators Mackey and Reilly and Mayor Conway for their efforts in securing funding for the design.

Implementation of the quiet zone essentially involves 3 steps. First, the public authority with jurisdiction over the roads that cross the tracks, in this case the County, must issue a Notice of Intent (NOI) to establish a quiet zone. Second, the safety improvements, i.e. installation of four-quad gates, must be made. Third, a Notice of Establishment of the quiet zone must be issued.

The Village’s engineering firm Barton and Loguidice (B&L) is coordinating efforts to develop the engineering design. The Committee for a Quiet Zone in Voorheesville is working with B&L and agreed to prepare the NOI without charge in order to save funds that would otherwise have to be spent by the Village for that purpose.

CSX has stated that an NOI must be issued before work begins on the engineering design. A draft NOI has been prepared and we are waiting to hear from the Federal Railroad Administration what additional information, if any, is needed. Our hope is that the engineering design will confirm the initial cost figures. Even so, no source of funding has been identified for the actual construction of the four-quad gates. The more community support there is for the quiet zone, the more likely it will happen. You can show your support by coming to the Village Hall on July 22nd from 7:00 pm to 8:00 pm. County Executive McCoy will be there as part of his "listening tour" of the County. He needs to hear from us. Also, if you are on Facebook please go to to our page "Voorheesville Quiet Zone" and "like" the page.
 
 
See our latest fact sheet.
 

What is the problem?

Each day an estimated 50-70 trains pass through Voorheesville.  The blasts of train horns, which occur at 2 crossings 1200 feet apart, disturb sleep and conversation; reduce property values; and can contribute to stress and hearing loss. Since the 1980s the volume of train traffic in Voorheesville has more than doubled.  It will likely continue to increase as the economy improves, the population grows, and rising costs of gasoline make shipping goods by train more economical. Even those not living near the train are exposed to the noise when using the Village Park, driving through or walking in the center of the village. Trains are a part of Voorheesville’s history and play a vital role in our economy. They were here before we came and will likely be here when we are gone. While we cannot reduce the amount of train traffic we can do something about train horn noise.

 

What are quiet zones?

Federal regulations enacted in 2005 and amended in 2006, permit the establishment of railroad quiet zones, that is, areas in which trains will not sound their horns as they approach and enter the railroad crossing.  The regulations specify the kinds of safety improvements that are required for the quiet zones and the procedures necessary for their approval.  Under the new regulations, 492 quiet zones have been established.  Prior to 2005, 1374 quiet zones existed under the old regulations. Hundreds of communities across the US, many like Voorheesville, have implemented quiet zones that are safe, workable and affordable.  A quiet zone in Voorheesville would bring peace of mind, increase property values and create a more attractive environment in the downtown area for current and future businesses.

The Public Authority responsible for maintaining the roadways that cross the tracks takes the lead in establishing the quiet zone.  In our case it is Albany County.  However, the support of the Voorheesville Village Board of Trustees is important to that task. In New York State several communities are in various stages of exploring, planning, implementing or enjoying a quiet zone. These include Cohoes,The Town of Hamburg, KingstonLittle Neck and Rockland County.
 

Are quiet zones safe?

In a quiet zone the engineer can always sound his horn in any type of emergency or hazardous situation, for example, when there are pedestrians, workers or vehicles or animals on the tracks. All railroad crossings  continue to have gates, bells and flashing lights. Signs are posted indicating that the train will not sound its horn. As shown by the Federal Railroad Administration, the safety upgrades that are required for establishing a quiet zone more than compensate for any increased risk that comes with silencing of the horns. A quiet zone would be SAFER than what we now have in Voorheesville.

 

What kind of safety improvements are required for a quiet zone?
 
There are several kinds of safety improvements (Supplemental Safety Measures) that the federal government approves for quiet zones. The four-quadrant gate system is the most desirable and involves the least amount of disruption to the area surrounding the crossings.  Under the four-quad system two gates are added to the two presently at each crossing. When a train approaches and the four gates are down, the motorist is prevented from pulling out of line in front of a lowered crossing gate in an effort to cross the intersection before the locomotive arrives.
 
As described below, we originally advocated for the channelization device/median barrier as the preferred type of  safety improvement because we believed that the cost of that approach was dramatically lower than initial cost estimate of $1,000,000 given for four-quad gates given by  Barton and Loguidice PC, the Village's engineering firm. However, neither the County nor the Voorheesville Village Board were willing to endorse that approach. At the same time both gave their support to the four-quad gates option. Since a lower four-quad gates cost estimate has been confirmed by CSX and the Village Board, we now support the four-quad gate option for Voorheesville.

 
Examples of Supplemental Safety Measures (SSMs)
 
Four-Quadrant Gates
 
 
See a Four-quad gate in action here.
 
 
More Photos of SSMs

What is the cost?

Cost estimates vary widely depending on the type of safety measure implemented. Every situation is unique.

As stated above, in December 2012 the estimated  cost of a four-quadrant gate system, was given as $1,000,000 by the Village engineering consultant.  However CSX has provided a more recent estimate of less than $200,000 that is based on an actual assessment of equipment already in place at both crossings. Two hundred thousand dollars borrowed at 4% for 20 years would result in a cost of a little over 3.5 cents a day for the average household in Voorheesville assessed at $208,600. The estimated cost would be reduced by any grants that the Village could obtain.

 

 
What funding is available?
 
Funding for quiet zones is available from a variety of sources including the Federal Highway Safety Improvement Program (see page 13 of report),  federal stimulus funding, transportation grants, and special legislative grants. In the case of New York, the Town Hamburg quiet zone received a $475,000 grant through Senator Schumer. The Little Neck quiet zone received $250,000 through Congressman Gary Ackerman and also State Senator Frank Padavan , Rockland County received $3.5 million through Congresspersons Engel, Lowey and KellyNYS Senate Majority Leader, Dean Skelos, has also been supportive of quiet zones.
 
 

Efforts to Date

in April 2012, the Committee for a Quiet Zone in Voorheesville was established. In August, the Committee presented a petition to the Voorheesville Village Board of Trustees containing the signatures of 358 Village residents asking the Board to take the necessary steps to create a quiet zone. Since that time many more residents added their names to our mailing list. Over the summer of 2012 Village residents also wrote letters to the Altamont Enterprise in support of a quiet zone (see Letters/Press page of this website). 
 
October 2012 the Board agreed to fund a preliminary study of quiet zone options.
 
December 2012 -The quiet zone study was presented to the Village Board but the study examined only the four-quadrant gate option. The study estimated the cost of four-quadrant gates at $1 million, making this approach basically not feasible for Voorheesville.  The Board stated that, although funds were available to study the median option, which was likely to be much less expensive than four-quadrant gates, the study would not go forward because the county had certain objections to median barriers. The Board was unable to say what those objections were.
 
January 2013 - The Board held a meeting in January at which time Commissioner Duncan of the Albany County Department of Public Works presented seven sentence memo stating his issues with median barriers. The Committee was given no opportunity to question him further nor to share any information with him that would address his concerns.

February 2013 - The Committee presented a proposal for a quiet zone to the Board that would use channelization devices or median barriers. The estimated cost of this proposal, which would involve some road rerouting, was
$186,000 to $300,000. Also included in that presentation were specific responses to the points in Mr. Duncan's January memo, which we asked the Board to convey to him. The Village Board said it preferred to ask Mr.Duncan first to clarify his objections to median barriers before responding to the points in his memo. The Village Board and the Committee agreed on a set of questions which the Mayor sent to Mr. Duncan in March.

April 2013 – In an effort to expedite a response from the County DPW, the Committee set up a meeting at the County Executive’s Office. In an attempt to be inclusive, we invited members of the Village Board to join us. Attending were Mr. Duncan; the Deputy County Executive; the County Director of Operations; the County Director of Communications; the Deputy Commissioner of the County DPW; Board trustees, Cardona and Stevens; and three members of the Committee. The Committee shared with the parties at the meeting, documentation that included federal agency reports; regulations; university studies; and feedback from consultants, vendors, and communities that have quiet zones. This information clearly supported the case for using channelization devices or median barriers for a quiet zone in Voorheesville and we asked that the information be considered in Mr. Duncan’s response.

May 2013 – Mr. Duncan’s response was received. It was largely a repeat of the points in his January 2013 memo. It appeared that he did not understand our proposal nor did it include reference to any of the information presented to him in April 2013 meeting. The Committee  drafted a suggested response for the Board of Trustees to send to Mr. Duncan that would address his concerns.  At the May 28th Village Board meeting, the Board said it would not consider our draft letter nor would it work with the Committee to develop an alternative response. County Executive McCoy was in attendance at the Board meeting as part of his listening tour of Albany County. We asked Mr. McCoy if the County would keep an open mind on channelization devices/median barriers. He gave a generally affirmative answer to the effect that the County was willing to work with us to find a solution. We are continuing to work with the County Executive's office.
 
June 2013 - On June 18th the Committee for a Quiet Zone in Voorheesville sent this response to Commissioner Duncan.
 
July 2013 - The engineering consultant for the Committee for a Quiet Zone in Voorheesville, Mr. Vinny Valetutti, consulted directly with Mr. Les Scherr, the Project Manager for Public Projects for Northeastern US and Canada.  Mr. Scherr gave an estimate for the cost of four-quadrant gates at less than $200,000. He added that, based on an actual field assessment, most of the specialized  equipment needed for the four-quad gates was already in place. Mr Scherr provided a proposal for an engineering design (included in the estimate)  that would cost $27,000 and would produce the project specifications and the final cost figures.
 
August 2013 - Mr Scherr's information was presented to the Village Board of Trustees. The Board stated that it wanted to have the engineering firm, Barton and Loguidice PC, which conducted the original study of four-quad gates, to contact CSX to determine if they were all in agreement with the new estimates provided by Mr. Scherr.
 
September 2013 - Barton and Loguidice reported to the consultant for a Quiet Zone in Voorheesville and to the Voorheesville Village Board, that they had contacted CSX and accepted the numbers of Mr. Scherr as the best estimate for the costs four-quadrant gates.
 
At the September 24th Village Board meeting, the Mayor reported that he had had some preliminary conversations with a potential funding source for the engineering design.